Man of Aran (1934) is a fictional documentary (docufiction) by Robert J. Flaherty about life on the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland. It portrays characters living in premodern conditions, documenting their daily routines such as fishing off high cliffs, farming potatoes where there is little soil, and hunting for huge basking sharks to get liver oil for lamps. Some situations are fabricated, such as one scene in which the shark fishermen are almost lost at sea in a sudden gale. Additionally, the family members shown are not actually related, having been chosen from among the islanders for their photogenic qualities.
Zen Bones, IMDb reviewer, wrote...
If you were to ask passers-by on the street if they'd be interested in seeing a 1934 documentary about the harsh day-to-day existence of a tiny community living on a remote island off the coast of Ireland -- well, you'd be standing there all day before you could find someone who'd say, "sure!". Which is really a disappointment because they don't know what they're missing!
Think of every poem you've read about the sea and man's relation to it and you might get a clue as to the depths of feeling that this film has. It's like Hemingway, Pablo Neruda and W.B. Yeats all rolled into one. It's extremely simplistic, just shots of how a small family fishes, hauls seaweed for fertilizer (there is no soil on the island) and dodges waves so high that its foam sprays above the cliff-tops. Not to mention an incredible sequence where five fishermen try to catch and kill a shark that is a good deal larger than their boat!
What's most exhilarating about this film is that while you're watching it, you can't help but think that these people are crazy to choose to live in such a desolate and difficult place, but then you try to imagine them elsewhere and you know that they are as much a part of that environment as the stubborn sea-worn cliffs are. After even thirty minutes of the film, the roar of the ocean and the cries of the gulls fill your head to such an extreme that you know that such people could live no where else. This film is reminiscent of Roberto Rossellini's film, "Stromboli" about the inhabitants of a small village on a volcanic island. There are a few brief pockets of sentimentality due to the score, but the filmmakers thankfully left out the music during all of the film's most important scenes. Overall what you have is an incredible cinematic experience that makes you think and imagine what it would be like to live a life where every day is a struggle with the elements of nature and a fight for survival, yet filled with the deepest awe and respect for nature and for living.